SUCCESS STORY OF TAMMY FORTENBERRY
Tammy Fortenberry is a Dental Assistant in Frost, Texas with a great personality. She always has a cheerful demeanor and wears a smile. Tammy has every reason to smile because she is alive and able to take care of her three children; she can drive, go to work and participate in society in spite of her condition.
In 2006, Tammy was involved in a terrible accident that injured her spinal cord and left her paralyzed from the neck down.
“While I was lying in the hospital at Baylor, I did not think I would ever be a useful person again. I have always had to work and I have practically been a single mother for most of my older two children’s lives,” said Tammy. “I remember thinking, ‘What am I going to do now? My neck is broken, I am paralyzed from the chest down, and my car was totaled. How will I ever be able to drive again, work again or basically do anything?’”
Baylor Rehabilitation Institute referred Tammy to DARS’ Comprehensive Rehabilitation Services (CRS) program. This program assists Texans who’ve experienced spinal cord and brain injuries by providing intensive therapies that help them re-enter society and live as independently as possible.
Tammy went through the CRS program and made tremendous progress. Counselors at DARS concluded Tammy was ready to return to work and enlisted her in the Vocational Rehabilitation program, which helps people with disabilities prepare for, locate and keep jobs.
With help from a DARS vocational rehabilitation counselor, Tammy received career guidance and home accessibility modifications. She also received drivers training and vehicle modifications that allowed her to drive herself, something especially important to Tammy.
“For me not to be able to get in a car and just go was a major ordeal for me,” said Tammy. “I will never forget the day, February 18, 2007. I was able to drive again! I was so excited I could barely believe it. A little over a year since my accident and I am on the road again. I cannot even begin to tell you the happiness when I was able to take my daughter to school by myself and go to the store again without having to ask someone or wait until my husband got home. I was free again!”
To complete Tammy’s independence, DARS supplied a stand-up wheelchair that enabled her to return to work at the Waco office of Dr. David Rhoden. Tammy said, “In a few months, I was standing up and rolling around everywhere. Talk about freedom; there is no other feeling like standing again after so long.”
With the help of DARS programs, services and counselors, Tammy Fortenberry has experienced a journey to independence and is able to enjoy her work, her family and her life. She said, “I am so grateful to my family, my boss Dr. David Rhoden, and friends at work and at home, especially the Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services.”